This is going to be a big, messy, ugly, political story. Via CIDRAP, Robert Roos has a major report: Wholesale roster change coming for US biosecurity board. This has to do with the strange weekend removal of 11 members of the 23-member National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB). Excerpt and then a comment:
Paul Keim, PhD, of Northern Arizona University, an outgoing NSABB member and former chair, said that normally a few NSABB members should rotate off the board each year, but that wasn't done over the past 2 years.
"We were all surprised [by Groesch's memo], but mainly because of the silence for about 20 months," he told CIDRAP News. He is a microbiologist and Regent's Professor of biology at Northern Arizona and also directs the Pathogen Genomics Division at The Translational Genomics Research Institute.
"I think it's unfortunate that it happens right now in the midst of this crisis [of lab safety missteps], but on the other hand the US government has mothballed the NSABB for essentially 2 years," Keim said. "During that period there should've been a rotation of members off the board. That was the original intent."
"They had a backlog in rotating people off," he said. "It's just too bad they had to rotate so many experienced people off as they're facing this crisis."
He referred to the recent revelations about biosafety lapses involving B anthracis and H5N1 virus at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labs and the discovery of 1950s smallpox virus samples in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) facility.
Keim and other members contacted by CIDRAP News said they're in the dark as to why the NIH has not convened the NSABB since November 2012. "We don't know why we were inactivated," he said.
Last night I posted about the sudden appearance of the Cambridge Working Group, whose signatories included some names familiar to Flublogians. Four of them were members of the NSABB: CIDRAP's own Michael Osterholm, Michael Imperiale (University of Michigan), Arturo Casadevall (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), and David Relman (Stanford University).